Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is the first in a 10 book series. Prior to reading this book, the only knowledge I had about it was that it had glowing reviews. I had no idea what the book was about or even who the author is. I did not read any of the reviews because usually there will be some spoilers contained in them. Because this is a fantasy series, I thought to give it a chance and dive headlong into the series without any expectation whatsoever in hopes to just let the book work its magic and do its thing. Not only did that not happen at all but I believe Gardens of the Moon is one of the fastest book I have given up on. There is just nothing at all throughout my reading of this book that wants me to continue the adventure. There are many things wrong with this book in my opinion and while some can argue that it will only get better as the series progresses, I just don’t have the time, energy and patience for it when I can choose from so many other books to divulge in.
WARNING: I’ve only managed to complete around 40% of the book before giving up. Continuing on would have been a hazard to my own health and sanity.
First off, there are generally about three major concepts to having a good book, at least in my eyes. I’m no famous author by any means but as a avid fantasy book reader, there are just some things I experience whenever reading a good book no matter who written it. These concepts include:
#1. Interesting characters. Any book is not worth reading, fiction or non-fiction wise, if the characters are boring and flat! As the story progresses, you develop certain emotions for certain key characters. Whether you cheer for the protagonist, root for the villain, get teary eyed when a character dies or whatever, interesting and exciting characters is what drives the story forward and compels you to read further on.
#2. Awesome storyline. Having an interesting storyline is the second most important aspect to a good book. Obviously if the story fails to capture the readers attention, then the reader themselves will see no point in continuing. While many books seem cliche, I can’t put 100% of the blame on the authors because let’s face it, what hasn’t been done before?!
#3. Vivid world and surroundings. The last concept is painting a vivid world for the interesting characters and storyline for the book. With many fantasy books, the authors have pretty much free reign to let their imagination go wild. The hard part is writing and describing it in a way that the readers can share the same visions as the author originally intended.
Gardens of the Moon, up to the point I stopped reading, failed on all three concepts. First of all, characters in the book like Paran, Tattersail, Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben are all boring and lifeless. They think the same and even talk in the same fashion as all other characters. The author also did a horrible job at describing the physical traits of the characters! This makes it really hard as a reader to visualize them in our mind. Add the fact that these characters are completely lifeless and what you get are characters that you absolutely have no intention of caring for. You don’t care if they die or not because there is no emotional attachment to them! In fact, I don’t even know what most of the character’s goals are in the story! It seems that they just trudge along for the ride. I sense that vengeance is a big part of it (killing Laseen, the Empress) but the author just doesn’t seem capable of driving that point home, hence the confusion.
The storyline is one that needs a lot of tweaking. Being that this book is set in a fantasy world, the author must do a good job at explaining things such as the world’s history to the readers. Because this is the first book in the series, it is even that much more important as you are depending on this book to hook the readers in to continue on with the series (in this case, a whopping nine others). Well, the author completely negates this fact and assumes that you already know what has happened in the world. This can lead to a lot of confusion. The book obviously includes a lot of different characters and so there will be a lot of hopping around between them. My main gripe with the author is that he does a pretty poor job at managing them. He jumps around so much that while it may not necessarily be hard to follow along with, it manages to lose the attention of the reader. Only certain authors can do this and get away with it and that is due to their awesome writing abilities. If you’ve read George Martin, Brandon Sanderson or even Stephen King novels before, you already know what I’m talking about. I hate to have to bring in other authors in a review to make a point but I really have no option here.
What small credit I can give to the author is his effort in trying to paint a lush world for this series. However, in the end, it’s still pretty lackluster and just can’t be compared to other fantasy books I’ve read in the past. The magic system is a mystery to me and once again, the author doesn’t help at all by not going over the details. He might have done this during the later part of the book but its too late for me because I’ve already given up on this book and series.
In the end, while many readers have thoroughly enjoyed this book and series, I along with many others have seen differently. You know you’re not nitpicking about things when all of the other negative reviews of this book on Amazon all state the same thing over and over again. Flat and boring characters that you absolutely have no care of whether they live or die, boring storyline that seemingly goes nowhere, lack of history details and explanation by the author, horrible character names (Tattersail?) and a bunch of others. What I’ll say here is what I’ll say time and time again whenever I leave a book unfinished. Life is too short to invest so much of my time on badly written books. Will it get better as the series progress? I have no idea. I can only hope so for the other readers who chose to continue on with the series even though they hated the first book. If not, I can’t even begin to imagine what reading the other nine books will be like.